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Year: 2013 Type: Book Chapter Language: English

This chapter explores the evolution of The Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP) collective. VAMP is a sex-worker led organization born in 1996 in the context of a growing HIV/AIDS movement which has generally taken an instrumental approach to sex workers. In contrast to many sex worker organisations emerging around that time, VAMP took an explicitly rights-based approach from the outset. It aimed to forge and consolidate a common identity among women in sex work which could empower them to articulate and assert their full range of rights as well as protect themselves from HIV infection. The peer educator model is an important component of its work, but the focus is on education for rights and collective building as much as for HIV information and condom distribution. As a result, the organization has evolved different spaces alongside peer educators in order to confront justice and rights issues which seemed too broad for the relatively narrow scope of project-based formats. For many sex workers, the collective has forged radical changes in their lives and livelihoods, in their self-perception and in how they are perceived by others, and in their ability to claim their place as women with rights, as citizens. In this chapter, Seshu explores the context in which this journey has taken place, as well as some of the strategies, with building a collective identity being a key strategy, which have wrought those changes.

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